As wallpapers and murals become increasing popular in homes and interiors, you may feel like you need to give your papering technique a little polish. An expert in applying speciality wallcoverings, Simon Medlin has been decorating since he was 16 years old, honing his craft in some of the most prestigious establishments - including luxury hotels and even a private jet (more on that later). So, who better to ask for a few tricks of the trade?
How did you start your decorating career?
I have been decorating since leaving school at 16 in 1986. I completed my apprenticeship with a company specialising in high end work in London hotels, which were predominantly located in Park Lane. Like a lot of tradesmen, I was taught by my father, straight out of school into an apprenticeship. Luckily for me he was a very skilled paper hanger and taught me well. Looking back, I don't think dad realised just how good he was, I have yet to meet anyone who can hang as many meters or rolls of paper in a day without looking like they are rushing. Somehow he always seemed to have done more than anyone else by the day's end. His flask of tea always seemed to have one last cup for the road, even though he seemed to be drinking from it all day long.
How did you come to specialise in wallpaper hanging?
My apprenticeship involved learning all the skills required to hang high end wallpapers. Following my apprenticeship, I developed my papering and paint effect skills further. I began to realise that the traditional papering skills that I had been taught were becoming more rare; also at this time demand for wallpaper in people's homes was growing, so I began working with more unique papers and enhancing my skills.
What do your clients value most about your service?
A combination of many things including:
- Knowledge and experience - the ability to accurately assess the preparation and work required to provide the desired high end finish.
- Professional level of painting and papering services and the knowledge learned through a proper apprenticeship.
- Flexibility and willingness to travel within the UK and overseas, including Europe, the USA, Middle East and Far East.
- Honesty and integrity
How have technology and trends changed your ways of working over the years?
Most of the specialty wallpapers are still made using traditional methods, so these require the traditional installation skills and techniques. There are really only two things that have changed, these are the use of a laser level when installing the wallpapers, and the use of dustless sanding equipment during preparation. Occasionally clients (initially at least) do not realise that handmade or hand printed papers and silks are made using traditional methods, and therefore have a different level of tolerance for the pattern matching and the fabric shading - particularly when compared to using paper which has been made using the latest machine techniques.
What are the common mistakes decorators make when putting up wallpaper?
Rushing and not always reading the installation instructions when installing a paper from a new or different manufacturer.
Can you give some tips for hanging wallcoverings?
- Always read the installation instructions and follow the correct preparation.
- When measuring out lengths, it's always worth measuring twice - but cut only once.
- Make sure you plan the installation sequence for the room before you start.
- Keep everything clean
- When using tub paste, mix it using a paint mixing drill attachment and an electric drill. It's the fastest way of getting all the lumps out and getting a smooth consistency.
- Above all else don't rush the job!
What's the hardest thing about your job? And the most rewarding?
It can be challenging being the last trade in on a complete refurbishment, relying on project timescales being communicated to all involved parties and then the timings being met. It is very rewarding to achieve and surpass the clients requirements, to see their pleasure and delight with the finished room or house. It's great to be able to install bespoke traditional papers and install them well, giving the craftsmen that have produced the papers the respect due and to then see the completed room looking amazing.
Tell us about a job that you're particularly proud of...
Fife House, Brighton; this project combined the installation of specialist papers and the application of paint effects, I achieved recognition as Dulux Select Decorator of the Year 2016 for this project.
How do you keep up with developments in products or techniques?
Dulux Select membership is a fantastic way to keep up with developments and product news, and share information with other like-minded members who are passionate about their trade.
What's the most unusual project you've ever worked on?
There are have been several unusual projects over the last few years, including palaces in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, a members-only hotel in a Scottish castle, a designer fashion boutique just off 5th Avenue in New York - however the most unusual project has to be a wallpaper installation on a Private Boeing 737 jet in Switzerland.
Polish your wallpaper skills by booking into the Dulux Academy?s Wallpapering Tips & Techniques course. Find out more and secure your place here.